Letter signed by 200 leaders seeks protection for B.C.'s old-growth forests

Protesters to old-growth logging used a 1200-year-old slice of a tree to block an entrance in the west wing where British Columbia Premier John Horgan's office is located in the legislature in Victoria on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VANCOUVER - More than 200 people including scientists, Indigenous leaders, politicians, actors and artists, have signed a letter calling on British Columbia Premier John Horgan to halt old-growth logging, a Vancouver-based environmental group says.

Canopy said in a news release Friday that those signing the open letter and sending messages to Horgan range from Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip to former NASA scientist James Hansen and actors William Shatner and Dame Judi Dench.

Shatner has visited old-growth forests in British Columbia, saying in his message that there are some wonders that can't be replaced, and the premier should let the forests "live long and prosper."

The statement from Canopy said only fragments of old-growth forests remain in B.C., and logging continues, despite recent deferrals announced by the province covering "relatively small areas."

The Squamish Nation reported in June that it had identified at least 20 cut blocks within 150 kilometres of Vancouver where old-growth logging is planned and it echoed three Vancouver Island First Nations that say they will defer all old-growth harvesting while developing long-term sustainability plans in their territories.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said in a statement Friday that B.C. has deferred harvesting of old growth in 11 areas this year and brought in big-tree regulation that protects over 1,500 groves.

The B.C. government commissioned an independent panel in 2019 to make recommendations on its approach to transforming old-growth forestry management and Conroy said it is implementing all 14 recommendations.

"British Columbians are looking for government to put forest health, Indigenous rights and stewardship, and good jobs for people on a more equal footing," she said, adding the government will be introducing new legislation this fall to reflect that promise.

Primatologist Jane Goodall is another of the signatories to the letter and her message demanding a halt to old-growth logging says it's "increasingly urgent" that voices be raised to protect forests.

"Every ancient tree felled, every species that becomes extinct, represents another threat to the future of our planet,” Goodall said in the statement.

Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s executive director, said the many calls to protect B.C.'s oldest trees "underscore the breadth of support for conservation and how important it is for planetary health.”

This latest letter builds on a similar one Canopy sent in June containing the signatures of 100 old-growth logging opponents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version based on a release provided by Canopy misquoted a statement attributed to William Shatner.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.